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Reflections on Gratitude
December 9 @ 11:27 pm
This past Saturday, preserve manager Joe Villari and I were thrilled to welcome fourteen participants to the north section for a guided hike. While we spent the afternoon enjoying the unique cultural and natural features, I was struck with gratitude for the opportunity to be a part of this land’s ongoing stewardship, specifically as a natural area preserve.
The designation as a natural area preserve is the highest possible form of land protection in the state of Virginia, meaning the Preserve and all its special resources are protected to the fullest extent of the law. Unlike parks, preserves like BRMNAP have a responsibility to uphold the land’s conservation integrity first, over and above any form of recreation. That’s why we have additional rules like no dogs or bikes, and why we keep large sections of the preserve private except for research and educational purposes. But I am grateful to be part of a team that recognizes that BRMNAP is a community resource, and therefore must also be shared wherever possible.
It can be a difficult balance to strike, but in addition to our wonderful 6+ miles of publicly accessible trails on the south section, we are thrilled to be able to facilitate access to the Preserve’s north section and Jackson Hollow biodiversity hotspot. Keep an eye on our facebook, Instagram, and meetup pages for information on future guided hikes to these tightly managed sections. We are also working on creating brand new trails in the south section to highlight features not currently accessible without a staff guide. That is why we are so thankful for the community’s patience and passion as we work to share as much of this protected land as possible!
For those whose first language isn’t English, it can be difficult to access nature-based programming. Defensores de la Cuenca (DDLC) is working to change that, by organizing fun, family-friendly events that make it easier to for everyone to connect with the outdoors.
“We’re thinking about the perspective of the immigrant Latino family or individual who has limited time away from priorities—work, family, and church—and really wants to make the most of [an experience in nature],” DDLC executive director Abel Olivo states. “Battling through language, or access because of cost, or going into unknown spaces and not really feeling safe—it really is taxing all around from that point of view.”
With funding from VOF’s Get Outdoors Fund, DDLC is hosting Spanish-language experiences in local, regional, state, and national parks that aim to build community around the outdoors. “Our number one goal is for people to have fun,” says Olivo. “While people spend time with us, we share information about the watershed, how everything is connected, and how we impact the environment and the environment impacts us.”
One of the best ways to have that conversation is through the sport of fishing, Olivo states. “We use it as an entry point to water quality issues.” A recent fishing event at Mott’s Run in the Rappahannock River watershed was a great success, he says, with multiple generations of families trying their hand at the sport. “There was a mother who said that her son had repeatedly asked her to take him fishing, but they had never had the opportunity to do it before. And there was another family whose grandmother caught the most fish of the day. She was rocking it.”
These events are also designed to point community leaders to DDLC’s more formal programming, La Academia de Defensores—a paid adult training program that holds workshops, hands-on activities, and participant-led capstone projects. A stipend makes participation possible for those who wouldn’t normally be able to take hours away from work. “We know that asking people to spend time with us means food, gas, the mortgage payment. It’s a real impact in their lives,” Olivo says.
By providing these training opportunities, DDLC hope to scale up its impact and grow its reach, one watershed at a time. So far one cohort of Defensores has completed training in the Anacostia watershed, with another starting in January. The Patapsco watershed’s first cohort is in training, and events like the family fishing day at Motts Run are laying the groundwork for a cohort in the Rappahannock.
“When we talk to people, they say ‘We had a lovely day, I’ve never been here, we felt so welcome, we want to be involved, we want to stay connected with you,’” says Olivo. And staying connected is the goal. DDLC believes that repeat customers will build a network of Defensores whose training on watershed issues can lead to jobs in the environmental sector.
“The more we can work to bring people outdoors,” Olivo explains, “the more we can show them there are possibilities to make a livelihood in this space.”
The Virginia Outdoors Foundation (VOF) today announced $1,900,014 in grants for projects that increase access to public open space in 21 counties and cities.
The 24 grants were awarded from VOF’s Preservation Trust Fund and Get Outdoors Fund grant programs. The Preservation Trust Fund program provides grants for acquisitions, easements, rights of way, and other methods of protecting open space for farming, forestry, recreation, wildlife, water quality, and more. The Get Outdoors Fund provides grants for projects that increase equitable access to safe open space in underserved communities.
To learn more about VOF’s grant programs, visit https://www.vof.org/protect/grants/.
Grant Recipient Summaries
Preservation Trust Fund
Grantee: Agrarian Trust
Locality: City of Petersburg
Grant Amount: $278,500
Project Title: Central Virginia Agrarian Commons – Petersburg Oasis Community Farm
Description: The Central Virginia Agrarian Commons is fundraising to acquire title ownership to 535 Beech Street to ensure its permanent use as a regenerative food production farm, farm-to-school center, and farm business incubator. Placing 4.12 acres of the 5.12-acre property under an open-space easement with the Virginia Outdoors Foundation would help to ensure the land remains farmland in perpetuity and enable one acre for a building envelop dedicated to future farm and housing infrastructure.
Grantee: Capital Region Land Conservancy
Locality: Chesterfield County
Grant Amount: $150,000
Project Title: Burton Family Farm
Description: The Burton Family Farm consists of two parcels owned by the Estate of Nannie J. Burton in Chesterfield County. The land for this Black Century Farm was first purchased in 1896. CRLC is working to assemble various parcels that have been divided off to preserve a fraction of the original farm to continue its agricultural uses and allow for historical interpretation of the emancipation of enslaved people along the Richmond/Petersburg turnpike in 1865.
Grantee: City of Buena Vista
Locality: City of Buena Vista
Grant Amount: $50,000
Project Title: Buena Vista Downtown Riverfront
Description: The Buena Vista Downtown Riverfront will allow residents and visitors to access the Maury River from downtown. Currently, the flood levee built in 1998 offers a walking trail, but the steep slope and riprap make getting to the water dangerous and difficult. A new path over the levee and new boat ramp will link the downtown’s brewery, restaurants, and shops directly with outdoor recreation.
Grantee: City of Lynchburg Parks & Recreation Department
Locality: City of Lynchburg
Grant Amount: $169,000
Project Title: Perrymont Park Improvements
Description: Perrymont Park is an undeveloped park in the City of Lynchburg. It is located on a parcel that is partly occupied by Perrymont Elementary School (not included in the total acreage) and is in a park desert identified on the current City Parks & Recreation Needs Assessment, meaning a neighborhood whose residents are more than a 10-minute walk away from an active park. The park is planned with a walking loop, off-leash area, a restored wetland, ballfields, an outdoor classroom, and nature paths.
Grantee: Lancaster County
Locality: Lancaster County
Grant Amount: $150,000
Project Title: Carter Cove County Park Creation
Description: Lancaster County seeks to plan the new Carter Cove County Park and to develop initial recreational features. Planned amenities include a kayak/canoe launch, fishing pier, picnic shelter, boat ramp with courtesy dock, and small interpretive center and boat rental office. The county purchased this 5-acre property in 2022 with the goal of increasing public access to the Commonwealth’s waters and to provide equitable recreational opportunities for residents and visitors.
Grantee: Franklin Parks Foundation
Locality: City of Franklin
Grant Amount: $100,000
Project Title: Deer Creek Addition – Blackwater Park
Description: The Franklin Parks Foundation, in partnership with the Virginia Outdoors Foundation, will acquire these 96 acres of prime river frontage on the State Scenic Blackwater River for the creation of additional parkland and a primitive camp site. This property contains old-growth hardwood bottomlands and forestlands with high conservation value. The tract sits at the intersection of two designated Natural Heritage sites.
Grantee: Patrick Henry Memorial Foundation
Locality: Charlotte and Campbell counties
Grant Amount: $150,000
Project Title: Red Hill Plantation
Description: The Patrick Henry Memorial Foundation is seeking to place a permanent open-space easement on 596 acres at Red Hill Plantation located in Brookneal. Red Hill, the home of Patrick Henry, first governor of Virginia, is open to the public 362 days per year, provides substantial outreach and education to both youth and adults, and is the site of an annual U.S. naturalization ceremony held on May 29th.
Grantee: Rappahannock Tribe of Virginia
Locality: Richmond County
Grant Amount: $250,000
Project Title: Rappahannock Tribe’s Return to the River, Phase II
Description: The tribe will acquire and protect 703 acres adjacent to 465 that it owns to create 1,168 acres of contiguous protected lands and solidify its partnership U.S. National Wildlife Refuge System. The project will achieve several objectives: increase connectivity/ecological value of existing protected lands; protect irreplaceable archeological resources; protect important migratory bird habitat; protect nesting, roosting, and migration habitat for bald eagles; and end commercial logging operations by the current owner.
Grantee: Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation
Locality: Shenandoah County
Grant Amount: $28,000
Project Title: Bowman Property (Toms Brook)
Description: This project is for the preservation of the 3-acre Bowman property located near the Town of Toms Brook. The Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation will purchase the property and work with partners to clean up the stream and landscape, establish trails to connect to other preserved lands nearby, and encourage public use of the property.
Grantee: Town of Culpeper
Locality: Culpeper County
Grant Amount: $294,750
Project Title: MCR Trail Application
Description: This grant is for the purchase of land and easement for the MRC Trail property. The MRC Trail aims to secure and protect approximately 19 acres of forested land in the Town of Culpeper. The town’s primary goal is to acquire the proposed property for public access by developing connector trails linking the town’s two largest open-space parks: Rockwater and Yowell Meadow. A secondary goal is to protect this land from development.
Grantee: Town of Kenbridge
Locality: Lunenburg County
Grant Amount: $79,750
Project Title: Kenbridge Connector Trail
Description: The project consists of creating a paved connector trail from the existing 0.5-mile loop trail around Kenbridge Town Park’s boundaries to connect to the sidewalk at the front of the property. The distance of this new trail will be approximately 1,093 feet long and 4 feet wide. Park benches to allow visitors to rest and trash cans to prevent littering will be located along the newly paved trail.
Grantee: Beyond Boundaries
Locality: City of Richmond
Project: Outdoor Adventures
Description: Beyond Boundaries provides outdoor adventures to individuals with disabilities, at-risk youth, those in substance recovery, and veterans. The organization conducts roughly 130 outings in whitewater rafting, fishing, rock climbing, kayaking and boating that together serve over 1,000 individuals each year. Some of the outings give participants the chance to test themselves and support each other, while some allow them to enjoy the calmness of nature while learning about local wildlife. All are wheelchair accessible.
Grantee: Blue Sky Fund
Locality: City of Richmond
Project: Blue Sky Fund Explorers Program – Nature-Based Science Education for Richmond Public Schools Elementary Students
Description: Blue Sky Fund’s Explorers program anticipates providing 2,135 3rd-5th grade and 130 teachers in 12 Title I elementary schools with nature-based education that enriches Virginia Standards of Learning science lessons from the classroom. These learning opportunities advance Richmond’s racial equity in the outdoors and complement Richmond Public Schools’ efforts to improve students’ academic performance in science and schools’ accreditation status.
Grantee: City of Danville
Locality: City of Danville
Project: Danville Resident-Led Neighborhood Park Planning
Description: Danville Parks and Recreation has chosen to approach community park changes through a resident-led design process. The department’s first meetings identified barriers to resident participation: childcare, supplies, refreshments, marketing, interpretation, and recruitment. This grant will help to overcome these barriers and increase resident participation.
Grantee: Friends of the Rappahannock
Locality: Stafford County
Project: Respect the Rappahannock- Expanding River Safety Education in the Rappahannock River Watershed
Description: The Rappahannock River has an excellent water trail with a wide range of public access sites, which draw thousands of users and visitors each year. Injuries and deaths that occur each year are easily avoidable if river users follow proper river safety protocols. This project will expand bilingual river safety programs and distribute outreach materials to local schools, parks and recreation programs, and first responders.
Grantee: Independence Volunteer Fire Department
Locality: Grayson County
Grant Amount: $25,000
Project Title: New River Connected
Description: This project offers a web-based app and physical signage for points of interest and access along the New River within Grayson County. The app provides clickable map features displaying access, portage, points of interest, and float segments of the river between access and portage points. The specific project component requested will provide solar-powered Wi-Fi hotspots for app users.
Grantee: INMED Partnerships for Children
Locality: Loudon County
Grant Amount: $25,000
Project Title: Community-Led Food Production Through Aquaponics
Description: INMED is introducing aquaponics, plus home and community gardening, to strengthen food security among low-income residents of the Leesburg Mobile Home Park while promoting environmental education and access to outdoor space. Aquaponics combines aquaculture and hydroponics in a closed, symbiotic system that uses 90-percent less water and produces up to 10 times more food in the same space as conventional agriculture, while eliminating the need for chemical fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides.
Grantee: Onley Recreation Association
Locality: Accomack County
Grant Amount: $14,665
Project Title: ORA Teen Swim Camp
Description: The association is looking to host a one-week swim camp for teenage non-swimmers in its community. The camp will be held Monday-Friday for two hours each day. During the camp the swimmers will rotate through stations that cover basic water safety and swimming skills. The camp will be geared toward older teen swimmers who have not had the opportunity to learn to swim yet. The camp will be offered free of charge to potentially 20-25 swimmers. The goal is to break the cycle in these families of non-swimmers.
Grantee: OpenSpace Education
Locality: City of Richmond
Grant Amount: $25,000
Project Title: Nature-Based Arts Programming in Partnership with Richmond Public Schools
Description: OpenSpace Education is Richmond’s only outdoor education program that combines art education and nature-based learning. The program’s goal is to offer year-long, tuition-free programs in partnership with Richmond Public Schools (RPS), a school system that primarily serves families who live in low-income communities and communities of color. OpenSpace Education provides access to art education, safe outdoor time, and alternative modes of learning.
Grantee: Star City Cycling
Locality: City of Roanoke
Grant Amount: $15,000
Project Title: Star City Kids Outdoors
Description: This project will provide disadvantaged kids in Roanoke with safe, equitable and regular access to protected open spaces by developing a transportation program to supervised mountain biking and hiking activities offered by Star City and Humble Hustle, https://www.thehumblehustle.org. Seed financing is needed to initiate transportation, prove its effectiveness and develop sustainable funding to continue it. The project leaders intend to grow participation over time and create a replicable model.
Grantee: Town of Appalachia
Locality: Wise County
Grant Amount: $15,000
Project Title: Washington Rock Recreation Area Development
Description: The objective of this project is to develop the Washington Rock Recreation Area into an outdoor recreation, tourism and community-use facility by capitalizing on the natural assets, historic significance and land reuse opportunities that are present. Once developed, the area will provide picnic facilities, river access for fishing, kayaking, and tubing, and will serve as a destination for residents and an increasing number of visitors to the area.
Grantee: Town of Clifton Forge
Locality: Alleghany County
Grant Amount: $10,000
Project Title: Clifton Forge All-Abilities Playground Project
Description: The Clifton Forge All-Abilities Playground Project will improve accessibility and promote inclusion by converting an existing playground, as well as installing safe surfacing and specialized play equipment to allow children of all abilities to play together. A Sensory Trail Project will be developed from an existing public walking trail, engaging all senses with play pieces for balance and movement, flowers and herbs for sight and smell, berries and fruit trees for taste and touch, and more.
Grantee: Verdant Richmond
Locality: City of Richmond
Grant Amount: $20,095
Project Title: Cultivating City Green Spaces
Description: The Richmond Grows Gardens Program makes vacant city-owned property available for community gardens. With 14 volunteer-led gardens across the city, this project supports urban agriculture in underserved areas. This funding will aid in supporting this mission by meeting community infrastructure requests that provide elevated garden beds at two sites, solar-powered cold storage for one site that hosts free grocery distributions, and funding for education and programming.
Grantee: Virginia Capital Trail Foundation
Grant Amount: $3,800
Project Title: Multilingual Junior Trail Ambassador Program
Description: VCTF recently launched its first Junior Trail Ambassador program for youth ages 10-18. Funding will enable the foundation to translate program materials into Spanish and have printed copies available to Spanish communities. This would help to connect and engage with a younger and wider multilingual audience. This incentives-based program inspires youth to go outside, learn about their community, interact with nature, and develop healthy, active living habits at a young age that will carry into adulthood.
One of the many benefits of BRMNAP’s Fellowship Program is the constant influx of experts in all manner of fields. This year’s Natural Science Fellow, Lauren Fuchs is a connoisseur of all things slimy and scaled, so we knew we had to ask her to lead a herp-focused BioBlitz during her time at the Preserve. On a chilly morning this September, twenty-plus eager citizen scientists gathered behind a single mission: Find and document as many herp (reptile and amphibian) species as possible!
The day started slowly with the herps safely tucked away from the cool air. However, as the sun started to warm the forest, more and more reptilian residents made their presence known. Highlights included an uncommon Northern Dusky salamander, no less than 8 Eastern Wormsnakes, and an adorable Spring Peeper frog. Throughout the morning and afternoon, participants carefully rolled logs and rocks and scoured the leaf litter. With Lauren and assistant Erica’s guidance, Blitzers were able to safely locate, identify, and return 29 individual herps from 14 total species!
These images and data have all been uploaded to the Inaturalist App, where they can be utilized for scientific research. BioBlitzes like this one provide critical snapshots of species presence and abundance that inform conservation and management practices. Not to mention, they are a ton of fun!
Keep an eye on our meetup, facebook, and instagram pages for future guided hike and BioBlitz events. All ages and levels of experience are welcome and encouraged to join! Check out the infographic below for a breakdown of all the species observed.
The Crooked Road is a 330-mile driving trail in Southwest Virginia that explores the region’s musical heritage. Each community it passes through has its own stories to tell.
One of the most enduring is about musician Albert Hash of Whitetop, who built his first fiddle in 1927 when he was just ten years old. Hash became a master fiddler and instrument maker, making some 300 fiddles, many elaborately carved and all made of locally sourced wood.
Late in his life, Hash and other area musicians began offering music classes at the local school, Mount Rogers. Students learned to play traditional mountain music on instruments Hash donated. After his death in 1983, these informal music classes became part of the curriculum, and Mount Rogers had the distinction of being one of only two K-12 schools in the U.S. with a string band program. The building was the site of traditional jam sessions, a place where the area’s musical heritage was maintained and celebrated.
But the county closed the school in 2011, says Tracy Cornett, tourism economic developer for Grayson County. “A lot of folks were upset and disappointed when that happened. It was a community hub for them.” Now Whitetop students are either home-schooled or have a long commute along mountain roads to the two nearest county schools, and the building has fallen into disuse.
That could have been the end of the story. Instead, community members are poised to add a new chapter. Virginia Tech’s Community Design Assistance Center (CDAC) has drawn up plans for renovating the school and its surrounding five acres into the Western Grayson Music and Craft Museum/Information Center. The center will highlight the local musical tradition with exhibits, concerts, and demonstrations of the craft of making violins. A Virginia Outdoors Foundation Get Outdoors grant will jumpstart the project, funding the excavation work for a walking trail that will surround the site where the school now stands.
The strategy, Cornett says, is to go after smaller grants to start. “After we get a few smaller chunks [of the project] completed, we might be in a better position to go after the larger grants” that will pay for renovating the school and adding more landscaping to the grounds, completing the CDAC’s vision for the project, shaped in consultation with a stakeholder group of eight area residents. There are plans for a second path, an overlook for the nearby creek, and native plantings. The expansion of an existing playground will serve both locals and tourists who come to the area on the Crooked Road, stopping to enjoy nearby attractions like Whitetop Mountain, Grayson Highlands State Park, Jefferson National Forest, Mount Rogers Recreational Area, the Virginia Creeper Trail, the Appalachian Trail, and US Bike Route 76.
The addition of a satellite location of the Whitewater Center in the western part of the county will add to these attractions and increase tourist traffic, says Cornett. “We want to get ahead of and be ready for that.”
Change is on the horizon, and the area’s cultural heritage won’t be left behind. “You build for the future not for the past,” Cornett states, “but the past definitely informs how and what you build.”
Jenny West was newly married and six months pregnant when she went duck hunting for the first time. “I grew up in urban environments, Los Angeles and then Northern Virginia,” she says. “I didn’t eat anything that didn’t come wrapped in cellophane from the grocery store.”
When her husband, a wildlife biologist and lifelong hunter, had a friend cancel right before a hunting trip, he surprised West by asking her to come instead. She’s never looked back. “I loved being up, watching the sunrise over the water and listening to the sounds of the marsh waking up,” she remembers. “It was fascinating.”
Now an avid hunter, West’s love for the sport led her from positions in environmental consulting and development to her current role as executive director of the Wildlife Foundation of Virginia (WFV), a nonprofit organization that works to inspire present and future generations of sporting enthusiasts by providing public access to multiple properties the organization owns across the Commonwealth. One of the largest is Fulfillment Farms, nearly 2,000 acres in Albemarle County donated to the organization by its owner, Thomas Forrer, in 1997. Forrer also protected the property in perpetuity by donating a conservation easement to VOF the same year.
“Tom was a very strong advocate of providing outdoor enthusiasts with places to recreate,” West says, “and we take to heart what he really wanted to see out there.” WFV manages the property for no-fee public access, providing hunting, birding, and hiking opportunities to individuals as well as organized groups such as the Boy Scouts and Wounded Warriors.
WFV has built infrastructure to support those activities and users, including an ADA-accessible hunt cabin, completed in 2019. There are no hotels near the property, West says, which made a pre-dawn start to the hunting day more difficult for participants in their Wounded Warriors program, among others. “It has opened up some great possibilities for us,” she says. The next project in the works is an ADA-accessible boardwalk that will serve as both an observation and hunting deck.
Now in her 19th year in the role, West reflects on what led her WVF. “A lot of the reason I moved into this [field of conservation] is because of what it can teach kids,” she says. “From my own experience raising two boys, I saw the way learning to hunt and spending time outdoors instills intrinsic values like patience and respect. You can’t control nature. You have to learn to work with it.”
WFV issues two types of permits to potential visitors to the property: a hunting permit, issued per hunting season; and a general use permit for those who wish to hike or birdwatch on the property, valid for a year from purchase.
WFV will accept hunt permit applications for the 2022-2023 hunt season until October 30, 2022.
The Virginia Outdoors Foundation (VOF) has completed its first conservation project in Colonial Heights, thanks to a conservation easement granted by the Capital Region Land Conservancy (CRLC).
The 0.934-acre property is adjacent to the Appomattox River at the site of the former Harvell Dam and is mostly surrounded by land owned by Virginia State University (VSU) and its main academic campus.
The conservation easement protects approximately 200 feet along the Appomattox River, a designated state scenic river. The land was mapped in ConserveVirginia as Virginia’s highest conservation value lands that are unprotected, based on 24 mapped data inputs. ConserveVirginia is also a key tool in guiding state investments for land conservation to ensure the highest conservation outcomes. Such consideration was important to the Board of the Virginia Outdoors Foundation in awarding a grant from its Open-Space Lands Preservation Trust Fund to assist CRLC with its acquisition of the property.
“We are thrilled to add this parcel to our portfolio of conserved land,” said VOF Executive Director Brett Glymph. “We look forward to continued partnership with CRLC, the city, and river enthusiasts to make the river and adjacent trails more accessible to the community.”
VOF now protects open space in 113 of Virginia’s 133 counties and independent cities.
In addition to the scenic qualities of the property, the Colonial Heights parcel is also essential for connecting the planned 25-mile Appomattox River Trail at its proposed intersection with the Fall Line Trail. The conservation easement ensures that the property will be available for public access in perpetuity. This is important for an area where the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation Nature-based Recreation Access Model ranks the area as “high” for land-based and water-based recreation needs.
Capital Region Land Conservancy’s acquisition of the Colonial Heights land was part of a larger transaction with Josh and Ingrid Greenwood that included more than 40 acres of upland and islands located in the Ettrick portion of Chesterfield County at Campbell’s Bridge as well as in the City of Petersburg. All the land was essential for the development of the Appomattox River Trail. CRLC will celebrate this historic acquisition and the work of VOF, Friends of the Lower Appomattox River, and other conservation partners on October 16 with tours of some of the properties during the Closing Ceremony of the 2022 Conservation Games at VSU’s Appomattox River Overlook. The Games run between September 30 and October 16. For more information about the Games, visit www.capitalregionland.org/conservation-games.
When the ceiling of their historic building in downtown Tappahannock collapsed in May, the team at the Essex County Museum and Historical Society (ECMHS) had a backup plan: they took the museum outside. The grand opening of their new courtyard wasn’t scheduled until June, but volunteers and staff were able to move some activities and scheduled events to the space during the month-long repair period. “We switched gears and were able to stay open while repairs were happening,” says Meg Hodges, ECMHS’s executive director.
That quick thinking was instrumental in ECMHS’s acquisition of the courtyard two years ago. “We found out that the folks who owned the lot behind the museum were interested in selling. It was too good to pass up—right out our back door and not even a block up from the [Rappahannock] river.”
ECMHS started a capital campaign that attracted the attention of the Silver Foundation, a local nonprofit named for Max Silver, an immigrant from Ukraine who had settled in Tappahannock in the 1930s. The foundation acquired the lot on behalf of the museum, which now holds a 99-year renewable lease on the property. The lease stipulates that the property’s intended use as open space cannot be changed.
With the space secured, Hodges says, “We returned to our capital campaign and created a game plan as to what we would do with it. Here in Essex County there’s not a lot of access to the river or outdoor space. It’s mostly private land and there’s no state or county park. We wanted to create something that could be used by all.”
A grant from Virginia Outdoors Foundation’s Get Outdoors Fund helped ECMHS build walkways and solar lights. “It’s one thing to erect a gazebo and pavilions,” says Hodges, “but if they’re not connected by walkways, not everybody can access them. And that’s what the grant did for us: it helped us finish out the space and make it more user-friendly than it would have been.”
The Get Outdoors grant also helped pay for an educational kiosk that tells the story of an African American riverboat pilot who lived on the site in the late 1800s, as well as the construction of a back entrance to the courtyard that leads to city-owned property on the river. Plans are to develop natural history and conservation programming to get visitors down to the water.
Other ideas for future programming include seasonal history walks starting from the courtyard, and an outdoor exhibit curated in collaboration with youth members of the Rappahannock Tribe. “The courtyard really frees us to do a lot more of the things we want to do,” Hodges states. “One of the activities we’ve been able to add is outdoor play with 17th-century toys. Children roll hoops, jump ropes, play jacks and horseshoes. These activities feed into other conversations.”
The activities are also just fun, Hodges adds. She remembers one little boy who approached her that day. “He was all out of breath from playing and was so excited,” she says.” He told me how much fun he’d had, and said, ‘I’ve never spent so much time outdoors!’
“That’s what we hope to do a lot more of. This space is for them.”
Continuing our series on the people that make the Preserve such a special place, today we’ll be meeting the ever-adventurous Jeannan Foster. Like so many of the people involved with this evolving project, it is hard to characterize her role in just one way. Over her 6+ years of service, she has been a trail-maintainer, a surveyor, a guide to new discoveries, and a true champion of the Preserve’s value to the community.
She first began volunteering with us during Second Saturday cleanups hosted by local naturalist Janis Stone. Since then, she has helped cut in new trail, survey cemeteries, and recently guided Conservation Assistant Deneith Reif to some intriguing historical artifacts. She has a knack for plant identification as well and is a particular fan of some of the Preserve’s more lush, green settings.
For Jeanann, the Preserve is a family affair. She and her kids have been hiking this area for many years, and her husband is an intrepid member of our Stewardship Council! She is looking forward to the many improvements we have planned, including a brand new trailhead and parking area set to be built in the near future. We are looking forward to Jeanann joining us on more adventures, and could not be more grateful for all the time and dedication she and her family have shared.
Governor Glenn Youngkin recently announced two appointments to VOF’s board of trustees.
V.B. “Tack” Richardson III, of the City of Alexandria, is a management consultant for the McLean-based MITRE Corporation and former staff member for Senator John W. Warner, where he worked on conservation and environmental issues affecting Virginia, including land preservation, increased public access for the Chesapeake Bay, and enhancing tourism for the Commonwealth’s natural, cultural, and historical assets. A native Virginian, Tack spends much of his free time enjoying Virginia’s Northern Neck with his family, as well as in the Warm Springs Valley and Virginia’s Western Highlands. He is a graduate of Johns Hopkins University and the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business.
Elizabeth Copeland, of King William County, is a senior director in U.S. Regulatory Submissions and Compliance for Juul Labs, Inc. (JLI). Prior to joining JLI in September 2020, Elizabeth worked at Altria Client Services Inc., a subsidiary of Altria Group, Inc., for 15 years. She received a Bachelor of Science degree in animal and poultry sciences from Virginia Tech and a Master of Science degree in regulatory affairs from San Diego State University. Elizabeth also dedicates time and focus to community service and helping others. She was appointed to serve on the King William County Wetlands Board of Directors (term ending September 30, 2027) and she serves on the Board of Directors for the James River Horse Foundation and Aylett Country Day School. Elizabeth also remains active in the Virginia Tech community, where she served on the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Alumni Organization Board for six years and is a lifetime member of the Virginia Tech Women in Leadership and Philanthropy Council. Elizabeth grew up and currently owns a farm that has been in her family for multiple generations in King William County. She is a passionate outdoorswoman and an avid animal lover and enjoys spending quality time with her many rescued dogs, cats, and horses.
For a complete list of VOF’s trustees, visit https://vof.org/contact/board/.